Coming up on a week into training camp, it’s not any surprise that one of the biggest storylines of the early part of the 2018 training camp for the Washington Redskins camp is the early results of the “Alex Smith era”. Anyone who’s been paying attention has been hearing the near-glowing praise from both players and the media when it comes to how Smith has looked early on.
From a devil’s advocate perspective, you could look at all of this as us being in the “new girlfriend honeymoon” stage — everything is great about this girlfriend, the last one sucks and we hated her all along, and now we’re so much happier in this relationship after being totally miserable in the last one.
Conversely, from a “drinking-the-Kool-Aid” perspective, you have to be plenty excited about everyone raving about Smith’s leadership, his presence in the huddle, his high level of football intelligence, and the way he’s immediately connected with all his teammates. Just as importantly, Smith has brought that same professionalism and approach to the game that he had in his previous stops at San Francisco and Kansas City to Washington, as opposed to coming here to get one last payday and go on cruise control from here on out (aka, the Donovan McNabb experience).
But from either perspective, it’s hard not to glean one takeaway after you start to listen closely and/or read between the lines on what people on and around the team are saying — specifically in regards to the fact that Smith is someone who’s already starting to make the guys around him better, which wasn’t necessarily the case with the last guy we had at quarterback.
The comments made a few days ago by wide receiver Josh Doctson might’ve been the most unintentionally pointed, and also the most revealing. After answering questions about his preemptive MRI (which briefly caused a “sky is falling” clamor among Redskins fans), Doctson commented how Smith would talk to his wide receivers after almost every pass attempt, doing something of a mini-debrief on what Smith saw, what the receiver saw, and how the two of them can better get on the same page. Doctson then even further, by saying that this was different from what he experienced last year (clearly in a good way) and that he can literally feel Smith making him a better player.
Whether or not you think Doctson was deliberately or coincidentally throwing shade at the last guy, you have to contrast such an emphatic statement with the fact that the Redskins coaches literally had to implore last year’s quarterback — I’m giving him the “he who shall not be named” treatment — into throwing passes in Doctson’s direction. Doctson’s 35 catches, which were the 5th most on the team last year, wasn’t entirely the fault of the young wide receiver essentially playing in his rookie season in the NFL in 2017.
Being completely objective, we know none of this means anything right now. Training camp is the time of unbridled optimism and overzealous projections made off one day’s performance, when the guys aren’t even wearing pads yet. Head coach Jay Gruden said it best: this team hasn’t played a down of meaningful football yet.
But as a Redskins fan, you have to be pleased with way the team has taken to the new guy — and just as importantly, enjoyed the difference that he’s brought, in comparison to the old guy.